Have Megan and Harry messed up again? No, I am not talking about the reported disintegrating relations with the Royal Family or taking trips on private jets while lecturing us all about climate change. This is a blog about all things intellectual property. I am talking about their latest foray into the world of brand protection as the Sussexes continue their quest to establish their raison d’être. In particular I am asking whether their advisors have made a good job of protecting their interests this time round.
Earlier this year the couple provided copious blog inches about the way they went about protecting the brand Sussex Royal. You can read all about that here. In the UK the use of Royal is not one available to anyone who fancies using it to give their product or service a certain elevation. There are strict rules and ultimately you can be prevented from securing a trade mark which includes that word if you are not Royal.
Having wasted a good deal of cash on that trade mark misadventure (it was reported to have cost £100,000’s) (really???) the latest brainstorming session has settled on ‘Archewell’.
Once the creative work is done it is over to the lawyers to advise and put in place the necessary protection. This involves much more than searches to check the prospects of securing a trade mark. It includes overall protection and ability to secure relevant domains and social media handles. The way in which a lawyer goes about this and the timing of the various steps to a successful outcome is vital.
In this case we know that a filing for Archewell was made in the US on the 3rd of March on behalf of a company Cobblestone Lane LLC for a wide variety of educational charitable and entertainment purposes as well as sweaters and socks.
Before making such a filing we would have advised a business on the domains it should secure. Where budget allows and the risk of others seeking to profit on the back of a client’s venture are high, the usual prudent approach can give way to something more extensive. Where stakes are high domains are a relatively inexpensive and good investment to head off problems. We assume a number of domains have been secured in this case and it likely quite a list but we do not know which ones.
What we do know is that those eager to get a glimpse of the Sussexes’ new venture thought it would be www.archewellfoundation.com. They were therefore surprised to see that that particular domain was not linked to the Sussex’s but an entirely unconnected person. Since then someone has been having fun. For a time it pointed to a youtube video of the hit .’Money’s too tight to mention’. At another time it carried a ransom note which read ‘We will surrender this domain upon the immediate safe return of Price Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex to Her Majesty’s United Kingdom’. This morning the site is mysteriously not available.
Despite the Cobblestone Lane LLC disguise it appears that the Sussex’s have fallen victim to someone who has seen through it and registered www.archewellfoundation.com. While it has been suggested the Sussex’s may not want to call their new venture a foundation it appears those searching for it think that it is a foundation and that is not at all surprising in light of all the talk of foundations around the Sussexes projects. The Sussexes can take action to wrestle the domain from whoever registered it if they can show they have a better right to it: but do they? Other alternatives are to pay an inflated sum to buy it or live with it as an irritation.
Meanwhile more bad news on the Instagram front. It seems there is an unverified account using the Archewell Instgram handle which was created a few days before the trade mark was filed for in the US. So far whoever is controlling this account has published just one image, a block of turquoise. Let us just hope that the account is controlled by the Sussexes or someone in the pay of the Sussexes going by the name of Cobblers Ally or similar. That way the Sussexes’ can get on spreading their very special brand of do gooding rather than get themselves in embroiled in yet another legal battle.
Written by Margaret Briffa, Solicitor